With zoos, museums, beaches, waterparks, trails, and more, West Michigan has something for every child – or child at heart – to enjoy in any season! We’ve rounded up 38 kid-friendly destinations to help your travel planning.
You are encouraged to confirm current hours and operating procedures with locations before visiting, and make sure to adhere to local safety guidelines to help you travel safely in West Michigan.
Photo: Aqua Pit Water Park
South central Michigan’s Coldwater Country is home to an abundance of things to see and do, many outdoors, socially distanced, and all safe! Have a family fun day riding go karts, playing laser tag, mini golf, or virtual reality games, or step back in time and board an authentic 100-year-old steam engine train. Get outside and enjoy the horseback trails. And, stay up late to head to the Capri Drive-In to catch a double feature at one of the remaining drive-in theaters in Michigan. This summer, jump, splash, and play in the hydro zone at the Aqua Pit Water Park.
2. St. Joseph
You’ll find magic and wonder at the Silver Beach Carousel below the bluff in St. Joseph, just yards from Lake Michigan’s Silver Beach.
*Please note Silver Beach Carousel is currently closed, but is planning on reopening later in 2021.
Krasl Art Center, located in downtown St. Joseph, offers virtual programs and Krasl Kits that you can enjoy from home along with limited in-person classes. Visit the KAC website for schedule and registration information.
3. Battle Creek
Discover spectacular views of wild animals from elevated boardwalks, get nose-to-nose with one of the largest giraffe herds in the country as you explore Wild Africa, experience the awe-inspiring panoramic view of an 18-acre African savanna, and see a variety of rare animals in natural environments throughout Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek.
4. South Haven
Photo: Michigan Maritime Museum
Children of all ages can find something fun to do in South Haven! Spending a day at the beach provides ample entertainment for anyone who enjoys the sand and water. Make sandcastles, play on the play equipment (located on both North and South Beach), and go for a swim.
Who wants to go for a boat ride? There are plenty of options for children to hop onboard, including the famed Friends Good Will tall ship at the Michigan Maritime Museum. Sign up for the Pirate Chaser excursion and help the crew of Friends Good Will retrieve their treasure from the pirates!
For the kids who like to ride their bikes, South Haven has two great trails, the Kal-Haven and Van Buren, for biking and hiking.
Indoor fun is also an option! The area museums hold fun classes for children of all ages to enjoy. Visit a retro arcade for kids to play their hearts out, spend a rainy afternoon at the movies, and cool off a hot summer day with some ice cream at a century-old ice cream shop.
Experience the largest indoor ropes course in Michigan at Allegan Event! Explore the heart-pumping bi-level Sky Trail® ropes course with Sky Rail™ zip rails sitting at heights up to 35 feet. Pair the course with other activities such as the QUICKjump free-fall simulation, Vertical Drop Slide, Clip ‘n Climb® walls, and outdoor zip line spanning the Kalamazoo River! Little kids under 48” are able to explore the Sky Tykes® course at a more comfortable height designed specifically for their needs.
Take an exciting tour of the sand dunes this summer with Saugatuck Dune Rides!
Let your imagination take flight at the Air Zoo in Portage: a world-class, Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace and science museum with over 100 rare and unique aircraft and spacecraft, inspiring interactive exhibits, full-motion flight simulators, indoor amusement park rides, and more.
February is Panels Off Month at the Air Zoo! Visit in the month of February and see behind some panels of your most beloved aircraft!
Enjoy a day of winter fun tubing and tobogganing down the hills at Echo Valley, open weekends through March, weather permitting.
The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts is a museum and art school filled with opportunities to experience, enjoy, learn about, and make art. The KIA offers tours, classes, exhibits, and hands-on experiences for the whole family. Children ages 12 and under are free and welcome to participate in the variety of programs offered throughout the year.
Discover the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in downtown Kalamazoo! With free general admission, families can spend a day–rain or shine–at awe-inspiring and ever-changing exhibits. Planetarium shows, hands-on crafts, lectures, and musical performances round out the offerings.
Whether you’re looking to spend the day picking apples, hanging out at the petting farm, or getting lost in the 6-acre corn maze, Gull Meadow Farms has something for everyone!
Mark your calendars for April 2021 for the Virtual 2021 MSU Science Festival. The Science Festival will have a lineup of over 190 presentations throughout April. Check out amazing talks with the experts, virtual tours, community partner presentations, live virtual demonstrations, and experiment-along demonstrations. Look for the schedule announcement online soon.
Today is also a great day to check out the Digital Resources section of the MSU Science Festival website. Discover partner presentations, citizen science, virtual tours, STEAM experiments you can do at home, podcasts, and videos. And don’t forget to sign up for the MSU Science Festival newsletter to keep up with the latest information.
The Pierce Cedar Creek Institute trails in Hastings are free and they offer a storywalk every month on the Black Walnut Trail. February’s Storywalk Book features Winter Trees by Carole Gerber. Join a boy and his dog on a wintry nature walk as they use their senses of sight and touch to explore seven common trees not by their leaves but by their shape, buds, branching, and bark.
A family fun destination with great, fresh dairy products: visit MOO-ville Creamery in Nashville for old fashioned down-on-the-farm fun and flavor!
Located on 80 acres of land in Alto, Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park is a unique, hands-on experience for the entire family. The park boasts a distinct collection of exotic animals and reptiles, and the variety and dynamic atmosphere make Boulder Ridge anything but your average zoo.
Explore the history of the Holland area, including stories from the area’s agricultural beginnings, manufacturing, ships on the Great Lakes, and much more, at the Holland Museum.
As spring arrives, visit Windmill Island Gardens where you’ll find an original working Dutch windmill named “De Zwaan” (the Swan) which was brought over from the Netherlands.
Enjoy some farm fun and meet the animals at Critter Barn in Zeeland, including rabbits, chickens, ducks, cats, hogs, cows, sheep, goats, turkeys, pot-bellied pigs, geese, donkey, and horses! Learn about farm life, tools, and more through a variety of programs and events throughout the year.
Action Wake Park in Hudsonville is Michigan’s first, and only, full-size cable park. No longer is wakeboarding limited to those who have access to a boat. Their facilities give guests the opportunity to learn how to wakeboard in a controlled environment without the need for a boat, bringing the joy of wakeboarding to a whole new audience, whether you’re a first time rider or an experienced pro.
17. Grand Rapids
Photo: John Ball Zoo
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids is home to one of the largest interactive children’s gardens in the country, as well as 158 acres of gardens featuring world-famous works of art in the Sculpture Garden, indoor art exhibition space, and a tropical conservatory.
John Ball Zoo is home to over 1,400 animals including lions, tigers, grizzly bear, chimpanzees, penguins, and many more. The zoo is open spring to fall.
Let your kiddos get their hands dirty in nature – whether that be standing knee-high in water to learn about stream ecology or planting squash seeds to start a garden. Play and learn at Blandford Nature Center through their active outdoor environmental lab, a team of passionate, knowledgeable people, and wide variety innovative programming for all ages.
Get ready for a laser tag experience unlike any other in West Michigan! BattleGR Tactical Games offers laser tag, archery tag, and so much more.
Take a family stroll through historic cobblestone streets, learn about the stars, ride the carousel, and explore much more at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
The whole family can enjoy tubing at Cannonsburg Ski Area in Belmont! Each ticket is good for two hours of sliding fun, and the magic carpet carries you to the top of the hill, allowing for maximum downhill tubing runs. Whether you are linking up with friends, or riding down solo, these tubing lanes are a blast! Visit the Cannonsburg website for winter 2021 hours and operational information.
Get the kids outdoors with a winter experience they will always remember. Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park, located within the Muskegon State Park, may be famous for its publicly accessible luge, but there are also many more fun family activities. “Skate trainers” are free on a first come, first serve basis for anyone to use on the outdoor ice skating rink, which stretches for over two acres. Or, on the ice skating trail that winds through the woods. Kids can also make memories on sledding hills or miles of illuminated cross-country ski and snowshoe trails.
When the weather warms up, enjoy a float on the Muskegon River with Guy’s Ultimate Kayak Service, offering kayak rental and inflatable river cat rental as well as livery service.
You and the kids can climb aboard the USS Silversides and immerse yourselves in the history and science of the submarine and naval museum.
20. Newaygo County
Bring those new Christmas sleds to Newaygo County for a family-friendly winter weekend getaway. The hills at Branstrom Park in Fremont and The Welcome Center in Newaygo are among the best sledding hills in the state.
Photo: Historic White Pine Village
Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association’s lighthouse education committee has assembled a variety of educational resources that meet new 2020 Michigan Educational Standards. Pick the topic that interests your kids, and start learning about local lighthouses!
Mason County Historical Society, who manages Historic White Pine Village and the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, has launched a virtual education page providing a bevy of online resources and interactive experiences, including “Historical Photo Detective,” “Mason Memories Essay,” “Virtual History Hunts,” “Outdoor Scavenger Hunts,” and “Journaling Ideas.”
Jump, bounce, and play outside this summer at Jump Around Fun Center! Obstacles, bouncers, slides – you name it, you’ll find it in this one-of-a kind experience.
22. New Era
Meet more than 100 unique animals in one of the largest petting zoos in the area, take a ride on the barrel train, race rubber ducks, and so much more farm fun at Lewis Adventure Farm & Petting Zoo in New Era. From barnyard favorites like ponies and goats to exotics like camels, kangaroos, and lemurs, and sunflower festivals to apple picking, Lewis Adventure Farm has something for everyone!
Visit a family-run dairy farm and get an up-close look at the cows, the milking process, and more at Country Dairy….and don’t forget the ice cream!
Photo: Silver Lake Buggy Rentals
Silver Lake Buggy Rentals is your headquarters for family-friendly off-road rentals at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes!
Experience the Silver Lake Sand Dunes on a one-of-a-kind 40 minute dune tour with Mac Woods Dune Rides.
Enjoy 500 acres of sand dune exploring with or without a guide with Parrot’s Landing Jeep Rental & Tours. If you fancy the water for excitement, ski or tube while being towed behind one of their sleek ski-boats or, for even more action, launch a powerful jet-ski watercraft
24. Mecosta County
There are plenty of activities in Mecosta County for the kids to enjoy! Enjoy ice skating at the Hemlock Park Ice Rink in Big Rapids or take part in a free after-school art program this school year. The Big Rapids Community Library also has a plethora of kids’ events happening weekly, from storytimes for little kids to book clubs, take and make kits, and more, there is sure to be something for everyone. For a list of all the wonderful places to enjoy with your kids, check out the “Family Fun” brochure as well as other brochures such as “The Robert Barnum Art Tour” and the Ferris State University “Bulldawg Tour’,’ all of which can be found on the Mecosta County Visitors Bureau website.
Looking for a fun, safe activity to get the kids outdoors? Look no further! The Pine River Paddlesports Center is now offering guided winter rafting trips. This is a perfect opportunity for a family fun adventure. Wind your way down a winter wonderland through the Pine River Valley. At the end of your trip, you’ll have the option of either receiving a ride back to your vehicle at the starting point, or hiking the gorgeous two mile riverside Silver Creek Pathway back to your cars. The rafts are a very stable craft and the trips are guided, making this activity suitable for kids ages 2 – 92. Come on out and experience the magic of the Pine River in Winter!
26. Traverse City
Photo: Traverse City Tourism
Kids of all ages will find something to love in northern Michigan, whether they are visiting a children’s museum or taking a ranger-led hike at Sleeping Bear Dunes. Right now, the outdoors are the best place to be. Take the kids for a hike at Grass River Natural Area in Bellaire, where they will learn about native plant and animal species. Bike along the TART Trail to explore Traverse City and see a cool planetary display that runs along the trail. There’s also plenty of fun to be had at local arcades and bowling alleys during “normal” times. Many hotel properties–including Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme, Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, and others–offer tons of kid-friendly activities throughout the year.
From snowboarding and tubing in winter, to zip lining and hiking all summer, Mt. Holiday is a year round playground!
The Music House Museum, located in the orchard-covered hills of Grand Traverse County just north of Traverse City, hosts a unique collection of instruments that provides guests with a walk through the history, artistry, and engineering of automated music.
27. Suttons Bay
Kids growing up in the Great Lakes state should learn about the Great Lakes! Inland Seas Education Association in Suttons Bay offers two- and three-hour programs for families to learn about life under the surface of the water. Participants will explore the Great Lakes food web by taking and analyzing samples with real equipment that scientists use. Examine creatures living in the benthos (lake bottom), view microscopic plankton through the microscope, identify fish, test the water, and find out how microplastics are impacting the Great Lakes food web. In addition, you can help raise the sails of the 77′ schooner and steer the ship. Book now for your summer adventure!
The Oliver Art Center offers classes and workshops for youth and families year round in a variety of media, including clay and ceramics, painting, collage, drawing, pastel, textile arts, culinary arts, fiber arts, writing fiction and poetry, editing, and wellness arts. Currently, classes are being offered virtually along with other online resources to enjoy from home.
Photo: Shanty Creek Resort
Whether spring, summer, fall, or winter there is always something happening for kids at Shanty Creek Resort. There’s still plenty of time, and snow, to enjoy Michigan’s winter wonderland.
Skiing, snowboarding, or tubing at the multi-lane alpine tubing park, Shanty Creek is where quality family time happens with the wind in your hair and a smile on everyone’s face.
When the weather warms, return to Shanty Creek Resort where an unforgettable golf getaway awaits. With four distinctly Northern Michigan golf courses featuring tight fairways, formidable doglegs and elevation changes will challenge any golfer. Need a lesson? No problem. Shanty Creek has developed and implemented a variety of programs aimed at attracting youth, beginners, and families to play golf. Or try something new with FootGolf at Shanty Creek’s Summit Golf Course. A hybrid of soccer and golf, FootGolf is played with a soccer ball and many of the basic rules of golf (first shot at each hole has to been taken from the tee, players must play past the usual array of bunkers, trees, and water hazards) all trying to sink a shot into the 21-inch diameter cup.
Photo: Raven Hill Discovery Center
Kids love the Petoskey Area where they can just be kids! From swinging and sliding at playgrounds to the excitement of finding their first Petoskey stone, to jumping into crystal clear waters, kids can romp and frolic like they’re supposed to do. Nature trails give them the chance to explore and see cool bugs, squirrels, birds, frogs, and other wildlife. The stocked pond at Petoskey’s waterfront may be the place they catch their first fish. Nearby Raven Hill Discovery Center in East Jordan is tons of fun with hands-on experiences in art and science. And when the fun moves indoors, there’s nothing better than Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark at Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls with 88,000 square feet of splashing and playing for kids of all ages.
31. Harbor Springs
Photo: Harbor Springs Historical Society
Kids of all ages will enjoy the Harbor Springs History Museum! The interactive exhibits feature many opportunities for hands-ons learning and are designed to help kids get excited about local history.
32. Walloon Lake
Photo: Hotel Walloon
Keep the kids (or yourself!) entertained with the Hotel Walloon Activity Kit. This adventurous package includes a Hotel Walloon jigsaw puzzle, playing cards, and a special scavenger hunt in the Walloon Lake Village.
33. Boyne City
Located along high ridges and over scenic valleys just outside of Boyne City, Wildwood Rush is Michigan’s ultimate zip line canopy tour! Fly through the forest canopy on over 7,000 feet of zip lines, cross five suspended sky bridges, and enjoy the amazing views of Lake Charlevoix from atop six tree-top platforms.
Photo: Visit Charlevoix
35. Mackinac Island
Photo: Mackinac State Historic Parks
Give your kids a history lesson they don’t know they’re taking with the Mackinac State Historic Parks both in Mackinaw City and on Mackinac Island. From cannon firings to dressing in soldiers’ clothing to a walk through history, kids will learn as much here as they would in a classroom.
With Marquette’s diverse landscape, children can safely participate in a slew of outdoor winter activities like skiing, fat-tire biking, and snowshoeing. Also, Marquette is home to a children’s museum, which is operating in compliance with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). The museum is currently offering ‘Bubble Bookings’ which allow guests to book a two-hour time slot to enjoy the museum with no other guests. ‘Bubble Bookings’ were designed to ensure the health and safety of the community while encouraging the growth and education of resident and visitor children.
An encounter your kids will never forget, Oswald’s Bear Ranch near Newberry in the Upper Peninsula is the largest bear-only ranch in the entire United States. With lots of room to roam, 40 rescued bears call the ranch home and you can view them in their natural habitats. Bring your camera and get a picture of the cubs!
38. Copper Harbor
Escape screen-time and put a paddle in your kids hands! Truly disconnect from the hubbub and mayhem and let Keweenaw Adventure Company be your host — they have something for everyone, no matter the age level or experience. You’ll find Lake Superior sea kayaking for all levels of experience, and inland lake stand-up-paddle boarding and kayaking for all age-levels. They have an excellent safety record and 5-star adventures guaranteed to make you all smile and keep you coming back for more. Book your adventure today!